25 May, 2017

Sri Lankan LGBTQI Activists Condemn All Out’s Anti-Sri Lanka Petition

All Out, the global advocacy group on LGBTQI rights (largely an advocacy INGO) recently launched a petition campaign on Sri Lanka, entitled ‘no deals with homophobes’. This petition was intended at the calling upon the European institutions (especially the European Parliament) to avoid GSP+ trade deals with the government of Sri Lanka, until it ‘dropped’ its ‘anti-gay law’. What they are referring to are Articles 365 and 365A of the Penal Code, which criminalise non-heterosexual sexualities. All Out conveniently avoids mentioning the fact that these laws were imposed upon Sri Lanka under British rule.

This petition has earned severe criticism from leading members of Sri Lanka’s LGBTQI community, who advocate for a locally-grounded strategy of Queer Liberation, identifying discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity as interconnected to other gender-based patriarchal oppressions, affecting cis women victimised by the country’s long war. Sri Lankan activists stress the importance of developing an intersectional local dialogue, connecting the struggles of the LGBTQI community with broader gender and social justice struggles. This effort has received the endorsement of the large majority of LGBTIQ Sri Lankans, many of them professionals and committed gender justice and human rights activists.

In an unprecedented collective initiative, LGBTQI activists and allies organised a press conference in Colombo last week, with the participation of LGB people, Trans women and men, and people with academic expertise in a number of fields including sociology, criminal law, international relations and medicine. The event conference was a 100% local initiative held in Sinhala, Tamil and English, clearly demonstrated the interconnectedness between equality pertaining to gender identity and sexual orientation and the wider spectrum of gender and social justice. 

Trans activist and International Politics academic Dr Chamindra Weerawardhana, the first ever trans woman to be on a research appointment at Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland, said “this petition is seriously counterproductive. Conflating the international trade deals of the government of Sri Lanka with the campaign to get colonial laws repealed risks increasing prejudices and the view – widespread in many countries the global south including Sri Lanka – that LGBTQI rights are a ‘Western imposition’. The local LGBTQI community is campaigning vigorously, and this international petition jeopardises their local engagements. Pushing the government of Sri Lanka against the wall is a clear no-brainer. This is a local issue of fundamental rights, that needs to be, and can be, resolved through local engagements and lobbying. The LGBTQI community is already doing a very commendable job along this path. It is precisely this kind of Western approach that is at the heart of the opposition of some governments to the UN’s emphasis on SOGIE”.

Dr Weerawardhana further noted “What bothers me the most is the fact that a Sri Lankan organisation, which presents itself as a defender of the Sri Lankan LGBTQI community, is behind this All Out petition. This is atrocious and highly detrimental to the broader LGBTQI community’s efforts to develop a locally grounded queer liberation movement. LGBTQI rights are not about imitating developments in the West or anywhere else blindly, but working towards the fundamental rights and acceptance of citizens locally, challenging gender identity and sexual orientation-based stereotypes and misinformation. A responsible Sri Lankan LGBTQI advocacy group should clearly distance itself from myopic and ill-informed initiatives of this nature, and issue a clear statement in Sinhala, Tamil and English that they don’t support such coercive measures. We are Sri Lankans working on consolidating our fundamental rights as Sri Lankan citizens, lobbying with our government and institutions. We work with them, and not against them”

A similar sentiment is shared across the LGBTQI community and allies.

Denver Peterson, a leading Sri Lankan LGBTQI activist, the moderator of the popular Facebook page 365 Api and one of the co-organisers of last week’s press conference, noted “We as Sri Lankan citizens, have strengthened our campaign to ensure our basic human rights. Sexual orientation and gender identity should not prevent any citizen from being treated differently. Articles 365 and 365A of the Penal Code are an impediment to the fundamental rights of Sri Lankans who are not heterosexual and non-heteronormative. We are working on connecting discrimination against LGBTQI people with discrimination facing other minority communities, and developing a strong campaign based on social justice. We are raising awareness day-by-day in the local community and with the political establishment, and this is the path forward”, Peterson further added.

Udesh Fernando, a Sri Lankan scholar in international relations who previously worked for the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute and recently graduated with an M.Sc. in International Relations from the University of London, explained “in a spirit of committed allyship, I maintain that repealing Article 365 and ensuring the fundamental rights of the LGBTQI community is an absolute national priority. However, halting Sri Lanka’s trade deals with the EU is not the ideal strategy right now, if we want something good to come out. It is a step that increases tensions between genuine activists and all the hard work they do on the ground here in Sri Lanka. This is exactly the kind of step that further widens the rift between the political establishment and LGBTQI activists, reinforcing the former’s perception of the latter as ‘westernised’ and not really Sri Lankan. This in turn strengthens the non-argument – but nonetheless widely repeated argument that LGBTQI rights are irrelevant to Sri Lanka”.

Overall, Fernando explained, “My take is that the Sri Lankan endorsers, or rather, endorser, of this petition has two objectives: completely destroying the hard work done by LGBTQI activists on the ground, present Sri Lanka to the West as an ‘LGBTQI rights nightmare’ and chip in to funding from the EU and other Western sources. This desperation for funding seems to be the driving factor for the ‘apparently, Sri Lankan’ organisation that supports this petition, and its high command”.

Fernando further cautioned “politically, Sri Lanka is currently on very thin ice. The Joint Opposition, headed by people far from friendly to gender justice of any sort, would be the happiest about this petition, as it gives them the opportunity to strengthen its critique not only of the LGBTQI community, but also of the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe joint government. So the people who signed this petition should seriously bear in mind that there are doing a big disservice to Sri Lanka’s LGBTQI community. My concern is that their genuine and hard-fought efforts to raise awareness and launch a national campaign will be sabotaged by this petition”, Fernando added.

Colombo Telegraph learns from a news article published in the website of the US-based organisation Human Rights Campaign that a Sri Lankan organisation, Equal Ground (EG), is behind this petition initiative that risks disrupting all the efforts and headways made by committed Sri Lankan LGBTQI activists. As opposed to Sri Lankan citizens who campaign vigorously with meagre resources, EG maintains strong relations with Western embassies in Colombo and is run by a dual US citizen and appears, according to many activists we spoke to, as keen on presenting itself as the foremost, if not the only LGBTQI organisation in Sri Lanka. This is totally untrue, and Sri Lanka is home to a vibrant LGBTQI advocacy community, with several organisations, pressure groups and a large number of individual activists.







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Latest comments

  • 6
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    Bhoomi Harendrana (LGBTIQ Rights activist) “What they are referring to are Articles 365 and 365A of the Penal Code, which criminalise non-heterosexual sexualities. All Out conveniently avoids mentioning the fact that these laws were imposed upon Sri Lanka under British rule.” So, Sri Lanka follows British Colonial Rules and Laws! In the meantime, the Sinhala “Buddhist” Monks are having a hay day recruiting young boys to be novice monks, Samaneras, to the Temple, so that the are fodder (FH) for the senior monks. This is certainly DOUBLE STANDARDS. Monks are allowed and you are not! They do not even prosecute the Monks when they commit crimes. What do the monks do when they run out of young boys to be novice monks, Samaneras? They go after young boys who come to the Temple to study. After all Sri Lanka is a “Buddhist” Country, where “Buddhism”, Sinhala “Buddhism” is given the foremost place. References: Child Abuse by a Monk in Habaraduwa Uploaded on May 29, 2010 She sent her grandson to school with the idea of providing him with proper education to make him a good person. The Buddhist monk in charge of the temple asked her to send the child to the temple and she sent him there because they were poor. There was no possibility for them to pay the money for tuition fees. That was the reason why they sent the boy to the temple school.When the child began to refuse going to the temple school so adamantly, grandmother had to look for the reason. It was then only that she discovered that the child who was sent to learn good behavior, ethics and Buddha’s Dharma from the monk had in fact been abused by the monk. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNSC93mPs4I
    • 11
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      Sri labka should not Allow LGBTQs to have any more parades in Sri lanka. that is what created this nuisence.
      • 6
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        If we are banning processions that are nuisance to public, Kandy Perehera should be the first in the list.
  • 14
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    ” All Out ” should have done some research on the hierarchy of the current regime before labeling Sri Lanka a nation of “homophobes” .
    • 7
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      Even better. . First encourage the hierarchy to embrace their own sexuality first and come out of the closet!
      • 3
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        Everybody knows that one well known minister to be Gay. Only thing he will lose in his electorate if he comes out. Once he joins a foreign organization, he may come out.
        • 0
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          Yes we all know that gay minister is Mahinda Rajapakse
  • 6
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    This press conference and the writings of Dr. Chamindra Weerawardhana are the best thing that happened to the LGBT movement in Sri Lanka. Until today, the LGBT movement has been dominated by an elite cosmopolitan group that walked, talked and acted as if they are the final word on LGBT rights. Even in the Tamil community, the movement is dominated by Vellahla LGBT activists such as Gowrie Ponniah and Sherine Xavier. A few years ago, even people like Sudarshana Gunawardana, who prides himself (no pun intended) as a grassroots human rights activist, ended up siding with elite groups such as Equal Ground. What has Sudarshana got to say now?… now that the cat is out of the bag!
  • 6
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    If they wish to practice their way of life let them do so. That’s their freewill given to every human at birth through the goodness of the almighty creator. How and what one does with one’s freewill in life will eventually be determined by God after death and at final judgement. If the mighty creator wanted Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Paedophiles, so on and so forth he would have done so with Adam & Eve. Unfortunately Eve misused her precious freewill and that was the beginning of what the world is facing today. Before we worry about them we need to worry where our resplendent island is heading for with all the stinking Corruption, Robberies, Murders, Unruly road users, Lazy & lethargic public servants, back boneless, illiterate, uneducated, crude, unrefined, ugly, sexually rampant, unclean politicians etc etc. So, finally let them live their lives as long as they are not doing what is detrimental to the country and its economical and political future.
    • 5
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      Correct, we need to clean the blessed land of the stinking, festering, political filth and excreta before we look elsewhere.
  • 4
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    USA should accept them as refugees. That is better than allowing potential terrorists from Arab nations. Obama is no longer President; Trump and Pence have no desire to follow destablizing LGBT which became LGBTQ and now LGBTQI forces to work on its political agenda. But NO ONE should be discriminated again on the basis of race, religion or gender or gender identity. Whether gender identity is a trait you are born with or a trait you acquire doe not matter. And lot of people seem to mix up love between partners with sex. Anal sex is had by heterosexual couples too as a matter of choice or for enhanced fun. Love and Sex are not the same. Lesbian women use tools or lick vaginas and clitorises. Those homophobic men in SL in arranged marriages should try cunninlingus on their wives, mistresses(some in the Cabinet) or girlfriends too. So you will know what ecstasy it gives. Now is that for procreation? No procreation just needs sperm ejaculated into the Vagina. So Anal sex or cunnilingus have nothing to do with love. DO NOT persecute people or prosecute them for their identity. That is not Buddhist.
  • 2
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    Sri lanka has a different culture. sri lanka has never bashed Gays or lesbians. If LGBTs do not want to accept that others have the right to bring up their families as they wish, then there is a problem. The best thing is Do not allow their conferences here after in Sri lanka. We symphathize with LGBTQs as they can not function as normal heterosexuals, all other things are just excess. They also behave as men and women anyway. They think using the Ashol is normal and they want others to practice it. That is just one point. Simply don’t accept them anymore in Sri lanka when they are there for publicity purposes. women wear a belt with artifical something and they behave as men. It is all their inability to accept the reality. As you people should already be aware, India crush balls of males in order to make gays for religious purposes. O have heard, tibetan ascetics get the help of males a s a counter part in advanced meditation. So, understand, Asia think about you guys differently. But, Sri lankan culture is already highly adulterated because of western influence. there should be a limit to every thing.
    • 2
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      You mix up anal sex with love and lifestyles. You only talk about anal sex. How about Lesbians who are more in number? Do you want to condemn them also to pretend to be heterosexual and be married to homosexuals like one VVIP has done for image and for intellectual reasons? Look comrade, lesbians engage in oral sex or cunnilingus and know how to use fingers and the tongue on the Clitoris etc for pleasure. Smart male heterosexual loves know to do the same to enhance satisfaction. You are fixated on penis going into the anus and you miss the point of gender identity and you confuse it with sexual preferences. Even heterosexual married couples like to engage in anal stimulation. Sometimes getting the prostate fingered by your female gives a far better erection and ejaculation. You are mixing up acts of sex(see Kujaraho to see historical realities). And stop bringing in Christian bigotry into a Buddhist nation that is tolerant. If two females want to be in love or two males and live peacefully and in private with a public display of affection so be it. As for TG people or TS people the jury is still out there on whether it is a trait they’re are born with or they develop because of childhood abuse etc like with Catholic priests raping boys. Those raped boys themselves become gay because of that. See the number of BiSexuals in our cabinet. At least that one guy is openly gay and no one will mistake his effeminate nature for a heterosexual and people in the deep south still love him ; but there only have one-shot; totally gay but in denial and pretending to be macho. Then there are people who liked boys from their days playing Rugby who are very very very powerful in this regime.
  • 1
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    Homosexualism is new to the west as the countires are new, but not to the asia. go and see Madhya pradesh Khajurao. Now, there are so many other variations of sexual orientation. I don’t want to write all those names here. So, what do you say, should the govt legalize all those variations because, some financially – influencetial people think so ?
    • 2
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      Why is it ok for monks to wear sarees but not for homosexuals guys?
      • 0
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        AJ Monks sarees are far more attractive than those ghastly black tents you guys hide your females in .
        • 2
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          haha you thought I was a Muslim funny boy. Thanks for admitting that monks wear sarees.
          • 1
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            Good one, AJ! Like your sense of humour, a commodity in short-supply.OK, wait for the next budget – free sarees for all citizens; choose from green, blue, red or saffron.
            • 1
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              Yay free sarees in all colour. Rainbow sarees: true LGBT sarees yay :)
  • 2
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    Repealing Section 365 will not only give a free hand to homosexual and heterosexual men to engage in anal sex, cause injuries and even anally abuse a person under the age of 16, it will also open flood gates to engage in acts of bestiality with animals. Likewise Section 365A will provide an opportunity for anyone to engage in acts of gross sexual indecency even with a person under the age of 16.If we keep fighting to get offenses under the penal code deleted one by one murderers, rapists, thieves, swindlers and pedophiles will eventually fight for their own rights and have a field day. Next it will be abortion, euthanasia, incest, pedophilia and god knows what else.
  • 2
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    I have no problem about what happens in the privacy of bedrooms and hotel rooms. Some of my friends and classmates have gays and it does not affect our friendship and they engage in their particular forms of lovemaking in private with their lovers unaffected by the provisions in the Penal Code. Nobody ever told me that the Penal Code affected him having a good time the previous night. Broad based public policy and criminal laws should not be tampered with in a myopic manner as we never know where the opened flood gates would take society.
  • 2
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    First, LGBT should provide food for the hungry before they promote their made-up discriminations. If some of the politicians are gays, where is this so-called discrimination? We don’t discriminate against the deaf, blind, and the mentallly disable, or gays and lesbians.
  • 1
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    You guys are all fixated on Anal sex between males. Some heterosexual women love anal sex and anal dildos. And you think cunnilingus is ok but not anal sex or oral sex between two consenting males? That is absurd. All of you are insecure and fixate on men. You are totally clueless about rampant Lesbianism and you are ok watching two women do it to each other right? Yes Heterosexual porn watchers love girl-on-girl action and girl kissing girl and licking labia and clitoris. But you are insecure of two men love each other and kiss? Why? Because you are all latent gay men or you have insecurities. Next time go to a Thai massage parlor and ask the girl to give you a prostate massage. You will know the feeling. Stop being so hypocritical. Lots of women love anal sex too. As long as you wear condoms and use KY Jelly or a good lubricant and use caution so not to tear the anus, it is an enjoyable act too.
  • 0
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    Racial and religious discrimination is more dangerous than other discriminations. Let LGBT wait till people learn and get out of most dangerous discrimination that drag our country backward day after day. LGBT don’t worry about penal codes. We have so many penal codes sleeping in the law book and they are there just to toughen the law students’ lives but nothing
  • 1
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    We have mentally handicapped, physically handicapped and now sexually handicapped. We should all feel compassionate towards them.

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